It looks like the warm weather is here to stay for a while! We might get another short-lived cool spell in early March, but this warm weather has the fish hungry and ready to eat. The creek fishing is coming to an end and it's time to start fishing the flats again.
The inshore fish will always gravitate towards the warmer water this time of year. In the cooler months, that warmer water can be found near structure in the creeks. But now the shallow flats are warmer than the creeks, so that's where the fish can be found. They won't be too far from the mouth of the creeks, but they will be roaming the flats looking to eat.
The warmer weather makes the fish hungry. Their body heat is increased and they need to eat. Now you'll find them moving and chasing bait as opposed to hunkering near a warm spot in the creeks. Because they're chasing bait, it's important to "match the hatch" and use baits similar to what they are chasing in the water.
Live shrimp and pinfish are going to be some of your best bait choices right now. The warm weather signals the movement of the pinfish from offshore to the grass flats, where they are prime food for trout and redfish. Take the time to catch some live pinfish and you should be rewarded for your efforts.
For the pinfish, we use a popping cork with about 2-3' of leader and a non-weighted hook. Try different sizes of pinfish, although a 3" pinfish is usually a good bet. Hook the pinfish through the mouth and cast so that the boat is drifting toward the bait.
Pop the cork and keep your line tight as you drift. The sound of the popping cork will provide a signal to the fish, and then they'll hopefully see the pinfish near that signal. Popping will also help get the live pinfish higher in the water column as they are naturally going to dig towards the grass.
Make sure to give the fish time to react while popping the cork, so just a few pops per retrieve is usually sufficient. Sometimes the fish won't swallow the pinfish on the first strike. Often times they'll stun the pinfish and then come back for the big bite. So be patient here. Give the fish time to swallow the bait.
With some decent wind, drifting over the oyster bars on the shallow flats should result in a limit of fish this time of year. Be versatile with your bait choices. If for some reason pinfish aren't working, be prepared with shrimp or soft plastics on a jig head. Be safe on the water and get it while the "gettin' is good!"
This fishing report is brought to you by Captain Jason Witherspoon of Spoon Fed Charters in Keaton Beach, Florida.